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You've probably seen the lucky bamboo plant (Dracaena sanderiana) many times in restaurants, offices, homes, and even grocery stores. Also known as the ribbon plant, this easy-to-grow houseplant has a long history in China and feng shui as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.
Lucky bamboo grows in stalks with roots at the bottom, and tufts of elongated green leaves grow from the top. Despite its similar appearance, it's not closely related to true bamboo at all. In addition to straight stalks, you can sometimes find lucky bamboo with stalks that are braided or bundled together with wire. Lucky bamboo can also be curled and woven into various shapes. This is a fast-growing plant, growing about 19 inches in six months. With just a little care, this attractive houseplant can bring beauty—and maybe even a little luck—to your space. However, If you're a pet owner, grow lucky bamboo with caution, as this species is toxic to dogs and cats.
- Botanical Name: Dracaena sanderiana
- Common Name: Lucky bamboo plant, ribbon plant
- Plant Type: Flowering, herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: Three feet high
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light or shade
- Soil Type: Well-drained potting soil
- Soil pH: 6.0–6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to pets
When you first purchase lucky bamboo, examine your plant to see if the stalks have been tied or bundled together with wire. This can damage your plant, so it's best to remove the wire to let it grow freely.
Lucky bamboo shapes are created not by training the plant with wire—as is done with bonsai—but by carefully turning the plant to make it move toward the light as it grows. You can purchase lucky bamboo plants already trained into different shapes and patterns or train one yourself in several months.
To train your plant's shape, find a cardboard box a few inches taller than your plant, and cut out one of its sides. Use another piece of cardboard to cover the top of the box, then face the open side of the box toward the light source. Monitor your bamboo's growth over time, turning the plant in the box to shape its stalks.
You may have noticed that the stems of your lucky bamboo have been dipped in wax. This is done to keep their shape, and it prevents new growth from forming. You can dip them yourself by using paraffin wax or colorless, unscented candle wax after cutting the plant to your desired shape.
If your plant came with waxed tips but you'd like to remove them, you can trim them with pruning shears. Cut below the wax tips roughly an inch above a growth ring—the tan lines along the stem—then discard the tips.
It's important to prune back your lucky bamboo periodically, as its rapid growth can make the plant top-heavy. Trim offshoots with a pair of clean pruners or shears, and save them for propagating. Trimming your lucky bamboo allows you to control its shape and promotes fuller growth.
Best Growing Conditions for Lucky Bamboo
One reason that lucky bamboo is such a ubiquitous indoor plant is that it needs very little light to thrive, making it a great option for low-light spaces. Display your lucky bamboo in temperatures above 65 degrees, and avoid drafty areas.
This plant grows best without direct sun, so choose a place with bright, indirect light for best results. If you see brown patches on the leaves, move your lucky bamboo to a shadier spot. If you notice yellowed leaves, it's a sign that your plant is overwatered. Shriveled leaves, however, indicate that it's time to add more water.
Planting directly in distilled water is best for lucky bamboo, as potting in soil makes it more susceptible to drying out. To keep your plant healthy in a soil planter, ensure the container has drainage holes and use a well-draining potting mix.
Types of Lucky Bamboo
Lucky bamboo comes in several varieties, most commonly variations of two to three layers (or stalks, with both types falling under the Dracaena sanderiana category). Two-layer lucky bamboo is said to bring love to those it's gifted to, while three-layer variants bring happiness, long life, and wealth.
White stripe victory (Dracaena sanderiana 'White Stripe') has a similar look, but features thin white stripes on its leaves. Lotus bamboo (Dracaena deremensis, syn. Dracaena compacta), also called a compact dragon tree, grows with thicker stalks and is named for its lotus-shaped leaves.
How to Propagate Lucky Bamboo
Lucky bamboo is easily propagated. With a fresh vase and a clean set of pruning shears, new stems from this plant can grow into a healthy, full-sized bamboo plant with little maintenance. Here's how to propagate yours:
Step 1: Prepare a new vase of water or a container of well-drained potting soil (or coarse sand) for your cuttings.
Step 2: Choose a healthy-looking stem around 6 inches long with at least a few leaves. Using a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears, trim it off close to the main stem.
Step 3: Submerge the bottom three inches of the cutting in distilled water to propagate new stems. If using sand or soil, moisten the growing medium, then plant the bottom three inches of the cutting in the new container.
Step 4: Keep your new cuttings in a warm, draft-free space with bright, indirect light. Once you see new leaves, you'll know new roots are growing. When propagating in water, check for new roots growing from the submerged shoots. Care for your new lucky bamboo plant as usual.
Common Problems With Lucky Bamboo
While lucky bamboo is easy to grow, you may experience common growing problems related to water and humidity. Here's how to treat some typical conditions to keep your plant healthy:
Change the water monthly to avoid root rot. Use only purified or distilled water, as the fluoride in tap water can cause leaves to brown. Water-logged or brown stalks are also signs of root rot. To keep healthy limbs alive, trim the green tops of stalks, then propagate the cuttings in a fresh pot.
Brown or Yellow Leaves
Brown leaves are common with low humidity, so misting regularly can bring the classic green color back. If your plant's leaves or stalks are turning yellow, it may be receiving too much light or fertilizer.
If your lucky bamboo's stalks are starting to look thin, it needs more light. Place your plant in an area with more indirect light: North- or east-facing windows are a great option.
Potting and Repotting Lucky Bamboo
Refresh your plant's distilled water every few months for soilless growth. Feed your lucky bamboo with a drop of liquid fertilizer every month, or use a fertilizer specifically formulated for lucky bamboo.
If you're using soil, keep the growing medium evenly moist but not soggy. When you first plant lucky bamboo, check the soil moisture frequently to gauge how much water your plant needs. Use a pot with drainage on the bottom, and mist every few days. Be careful not to let your plant dry out between waterings—if the top inch of soil feels dry, it's time to add more water.
Use a clear container with decorative pebbles to show off your lucky bamboo's soilless growth.
How Fast Does Lucky Bamboo Grow?
A young lucky bamboo plant can grow up to 19 inches every six months. Its mature height can reach between 3 and 5 feet (averaging about 3).
How Long Can Lucky Bamboo Live?
Without soil, lucky bamboo typically lives one to two years—but your plant can live a few more years if potted.
What's the Difference Between Lucky Bamboo and Lotus Bamboo?
Lotus bamboo features thicker stalks, lotus-shaped leaves, and a less rapid growth rate than lucky bamboo.
Is Lucky Bamboo Real Bamboo?
While they look similar, classic bamboo (Bambusoideae) comes from a different botanical family than Lucky bamboo.
Dracaena Sanderiana. Missouri Botanical Garden.
"Dracaena." American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Dracaena Sanderiana. Plants & Flowers: Plants Rescue: A Comprehensive Plants and Flowers Database.